Emotional wellbeing | Education Support Partnership

Emotional wellbeing

Our emotional health is paramount to our performance, resilience and ability to manage feelings like stress, anxiety or feeling overwhelmed.

When we feel intense emotional responses i.e. we get angry, cross, frustrated, or overwhelmed, we produce cortisol and adrenaline.  These hormones were historically useful when we were running around the savannah trying to escape threats like tigers. It is an evolutionary response based on our former environment when we were under many threats.  

It makes sense for us to produce adrenaline and cortisol when faced with a threatening situation (e.g. a car coming towards us fast when we are crossing the road) but when we do so as a result of  non-life threatening things like a busy work load or difficult classroom behaviour it is incredibly unhelpful. In these times we do not need our flight, fight or freeze responses as these reduce our capacity to think straight and de-activate our prefrontal cortex, our rational brain, that we most need to deal with these situations. 

When we are stressed or emotionally triggered we often believe that this is just the way it is as we are responding to a high workload or an angry parent.  However, if we can understand what we are telling ourselves which feels life threatening then we can start to reduce the levels of cortisol and adrenaline we are producing.

Spending time reflecting on how we are feeling, where these emotions come from and what else they may relate to is the starting point for understanding more about ourselves, our behaviours and consequently our actions.  It will help reduce the fight, flight, freeze responses that are triggered when feeling overwhelmed and so allow our prefrontal cortex to do a better job.

Improving your emotional health

  • Observe when you are emotionally triggered, do not respond in the moment and work out what is driving your thought process or causing you to experience intense emotions like feeling overwhelmed, anger and frustration (See Emotions Poster, Questions you can ask to understand your emotional responses and Emotional wellbeing)

  • Plan and manage your time effectively to reduce stress and strain

  • Ensure you have time for reflection and space to think things through.  If you are too busy or rushed you are more likely to respond with your emotional brain

  • Talk things through with friends, partners, colleagues or your manager to get some perspective

  • Practice mindfulness or meditation techniques to quieten the mind and focus your thinking on less emotional content

  • See a therapist to get help understanding what causes you to experience difficult emotions; seeing someone before you feel overwhelmed or hit crisis point will put you in a much better place to deal with all of life’s challenges

  • Ensure you are well slept, eat well and exercise 

Craig Malkin, PhD, psychology instructor at Harvard Medical School and author of Rethinking Narcissism states that  “Open(ing) up and depend(ing) on others more emotionally, sharing vulnerable feelings, like sadness or fear or loneliness, and trust that the people we care about will be there for us. People who share in this way come to see themselves, and the world, in a better light—and it makes them stronger.”

What can you do if you are feeling overwhelmed:

Ask yourself: